Chris Wildman is the owner of Malhamdale’s Town End Farm Shop, which also houses his Wildman British Charcuterie & Salumi business.
Butchery has been the family business for decades with generations working in High and Low Bentham.
And while the pandemic has seen Wildman Charcuterie trade predominantly online, Chris said the British charcuterie movement is “massive” right now.
“We were in at the right time,” he said.
“It is great produce to sell and before the pandemic, myself and my brother Nigel, were running courses in our butchery area once a month.
“We had everyone from Michelin-starred chefs to stag parties. The courses are really popular and we have even trained people who supply Marco Pierre-White.”
Chris returned to butchery after a career in local government took him to Lancaster and London.
He came back to Yorkshire and the family home in Kirkby Malham, with his wife Jennifer and after being involved with a number of different businesses, went back to his first love, butchery.
He said his experiences helped him to learn what worked best through trial and error, a process which led to his move into charcuterie.
“When I began attending farmers’ markets and food festivals I found that going along with fresh raw meat, regardless of how good the produce or the packaging, was a hard sell.
“It also asked the question what to do with the meat that was unsold. That’s when I started coming up with ideas about adding shelf life to produce.
“Fermenting and curing sausage for five weeks for chorizo meant it could be kept at ambient temperature, no need for refrigerated storage, could be vacuum packed and had a four-month shelf life.”
As well as the charcuterie, Town End Farm Shop stocks its own Longhorn beef, produced on the family farm at Kirkby Malham by Chris’s son, William, and father-in-law, Bill.
Chris said it is “as local as you can get”.
“A lot of people talk about native breeds and yet many are from Scotland or other areas of the UK. Longhorns, which originate from the Craven area, are the ultimate native breed for this part of Yorkshire.”
Chris bought Town End Farm Shop eight years ago from local farmers Chris and Jane Hall, adding to his existing online meat business Paganum and his own-branded Yorkshire Chorizo and Charcuterie sold at farmers markets and food festivals.
Chris said the location has been a challenge during the past year.
“We know that our trade generally comes from being in a destination venue, close to Malham Cove, Malham Tarn and the Dales.
“In earlier lockdowns people were encouraged to go and take exercise in the National Parks, but then, when the directive was to ‘stay local’ there was no way those same people could come and visit, even if they wanted to.
“I had no problem at all with the guidance, we are a small community and we had a responsibility to make sure Covid did not spread to vulnerable people who live here.”
Chris said he had also been encouraged by the enthusiasm to ‘shop local’ during the first lockdown, but that it had tailed off in recent months.
“Everybody came out and told us how brilliant we were doing, that our produce was the best they’d ever had and it looked as though the local food message had got through.
“We converted our tearoom into a warehouse packing system making up 50 boxes at a time and we had three people working on it.
“We thought we’d cracked it, people said they would never go back to their supermarkets, but they did. We’ve had highs and lows in the past twelve months, the website has been overloaded with orders on occasions and then stopped. Eat Out to Help Out did give us a boost and the Christmas hamper orders were brilliant.
“We’re also now doing a cheese and charcuterie hamper which is working well. But the café and tearoom being closed for so long, being unable to hold our charcuterie course and the limit on how far people have been allowed to travel, have all knocked our trade.”
However, a year on, Chris said despite the rollercoaster ride through the pandemic, he is thinking positively about the summer ahead.
“The bright spot for us now is that we are reopening and we have the summer to look forward to.”